Ask The Question: New Orleans residents a casualty of the war in Iraq?

[Article sourced from Editor and Publisher, via Dave Farber's Interesting People list. I had this same thought myself - given that New Orleans actually survived the hurricane, and that the real disaster was the levee breakage afterwards... shouldn't the Bush Administration be held responsible for the (possibly unnecessary) total destruction of a major U.S. city, rendering 500,000 to 1,000,000 people homeless... should we now include a portion of the deaths in New Orleans in the fatality totals for the Iraq war? -Thomas]
Excerpt:

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a
trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending
pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security — coming
at the same time as federal tax cuts — was the reason for the
strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and
2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of
hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that,
the federal government came back this spring with the steepest
reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in
history.

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? ‘Times-Picayune’ Had
Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues
By Will Bunch
Published: August 30, 2005 9:00 PM ET


PHILADELPHIA Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of
the city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans late on
Tuesday. That’s because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through
a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city’s 17th Street
Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level,
the rising tide may not stop until it’s level with the massive lake.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a
direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been
working with state and local officials in the region since the late
1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from
a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress
authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with
carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and
building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at
least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane
activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees
surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a
trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending
pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security — coming
at the same time as federal tax cuts — was the reason for the
strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and
2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of
hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The
Times-Picayune web site, reported: “No one can say they didn’t see it
coming….Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious
questions are being asked about the lack of preparation.”
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President
Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said
was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004,
article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: It appears
that the money has been moved in the presidents budget to handle
homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose thats the price
we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees cant be finished,
and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a
security issue for us.
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps’
project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East
Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for
urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June
18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
“The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything
is sinking, and if we dont get the money fast enough to raise them,
then we cant stay ahead of the settlement,” he said. “The problem
that we have isnt that the levee is low, but that the federal funds
have dried up so that we cant raise them.”
The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony
up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in
Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work
with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004
that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million
project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.
The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that,
the federal government came back this spring with the steepest
reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in
history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed
a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA
project — $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million — was not enough
to start any new jobs.

One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer:
a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the
main breach on Monday.

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